The Federal Communications Commission, invoking its seldom-used authority to police pornographic broadcasts, initiated administrative proceedings Thursday against three radio stations accused of airing sexually explicit programs.
The radio stations, located in San Jose, Chicago and Indianapolis, could be fined up to $20,000 each for the alleged violations of broadcast decency laws, all of which occurred during daytime talk shows.
Since 1975, the FCC has held only three broadcasters in violation of the obscenity standards.
In letters addressed to the three stations, the agency alleged that material broadcast was "clear and capable of a specific, sexual meaning and is patently offensive."
The agency singled out the "Perry Stone Show" on station KSJO-FM in San Jose, the "Steve and Gary Show" on WLUP-AM in Chicago and the "Bob and Tom Show" on WFBQ-FM in Indianapolis.
Each station management has 30 days to respond to the charges, after which the agency will decide whether a violation occurred and what punishment might be warranted.
Officials at the radio stations could not be reached for comment Thursday night. However, the Washington-based Media Access Project, a First Amendment rights group, criticized the action by the commission, which is now headed by Alfred Sikes, its new chairman.
"The symbolism of this being the first major action of the new chairman means that he places a higher priority on suppressing speech than on supporting speech," said Andrew Schwartzman, executive director of the group.
The agency cited a number of allegedly objectionable broadcasts on each of the daytime shows, including a sexually graphic parody of the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song on KSJO, a song named "kiddie porn" on the Chicago station and a WFBQ talk show discussion of sex acts using the names of candy bars.
Cites Court Definition
The agency said it was applying a court ruling that defines indecent material as "language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs."
In April, 1988, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the agency's use of the obscenity definition, rejecting arguments that it was too vague to be constitutional. At the same time, the appeals court affirmed the agency's decision that material broadcast on the "Howard Stern Show" in New York was indecent.
A spokesman for the FCC said that the agency action came after complaints were filed by listeners.